Andrea Mason, a woman of influence

Andrea Mason’s mobile phone has taken a hammering in the last 12 months as accolades and awards acknowledging her work have meant everyone wants a piece of her time.

As the CEO of Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council, which covers 350,000 sq kms of Central Australia, Andrea already had plenty on her plate.

That workload increased last year with the obligations and opportunities that accompanied her selection as Telstra’s Business Woman of the Year.

That was before she was announced as the NT’s 2017 Australian of the Year and the Centralian Citizen of the Year.

To top it off, she was recently appointed to the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) and has now accepted a nine-month secondment with the Westpac Group in Sydney, an opportunity made possible through Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships and Westpac.

With degrees in Aboriginal Affairs and Public Administration and in Laws, Andrea is one of the emerging new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

For the past seven years at NPY Women’s Council, she has influenced Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal thinking to create employment, support health and wellbeing, and tackle domestic violence and other social challenges.

With deep respect for local language, country, law and family, Andrea is determined to help children and young people realise the same aspirations as their urban counterparts. Andrea is confident that NPY Women’s Council has the programs to turn this ambition into action.

She points to such innovative social enterprises as the Council’s Tjanpi Desert Weavers which represents more than 400 women artists from 26 remote communities and the Ngangkari program that melds traditional healers with the best of western medicine to maximise health outcomes and wellbeing.

“I have prepared my whole life for the opportunities I have received in NPY Women’s Council. I genuinely believe that if you support the empowerment of women and children, then every member of the community is, in the long run, healthier and happier.”

Telstra Business Women’s Awards ambassador and marketing officer Joe Pollard said that Andrea speaks with dignity and leads with humanity and cultural sensitivity.

’She has involved the entire community in her business model and built a blueprint for making a difference. Significantly, Ms Mason has developed a replicable commercial process and relationships to make it sustainable’.

In accepting the placement with Westpac, Andrea says her primary motivation had been to expand her knowledge and understanding of business strategies that work for and with Aboriginal people and their communities.

“If I can assist with interpreting information on my return to Alice Springs, I hope in the long term that we will see across central Australia more Aboriginal people, especially Aboriginal women, seeking business opportunities with leaders in the business sector,” Andrea said.

Andrea says she took on the appointment to the Prime Minister’s ‘refreshed’ Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC), because she wants to bring to national discussions the perspectives that she has seen deliver rewards in central Australia.

“I believe I can make a meaningful contribution at the national level. I have done this through my leadership in NPY Women’s Council, in my role as a leader in the Empowered Communities Initiative and when I had responsibilities to progress reconciliation during my time in Canberra, so I know the level of effort and energy that is required for such a task,” Andrea said.

Andrea has come a long way since her teenage years when sport was her overriding passion. In those days she was always a dedicated team player and nothing has changed.

“Any career goals I’ve been able to kick over the years have largely been thanks to the people I’ve worked with. Much like netball or football, everyone on the team plays their part and this also means everyone learns from successes and defeats.”

Andrea is confident that true reconciliation is certainly achievable and agrees that in celebrating this year’s significant National Reconciliation Week we should all take a moment to think about what each of us can do to further enhance our shared relationships.

“I believe the road ahead for reconciliation in Australia is shaped by what we as Australian citizens commit to do, but it is also weakened by what we fail to do. Because I prefer to live life without regret, I choose to do all I can to progress reconciliation while I have the opportunities to do this.”

Before heading off to Sydney, Andrea was grateful to spend a couple of quiet days at home.

“Just switching off that phone and taking some time out to simply think doesn’t happen often enough. A little solitude is good for the soul and it also gave me a chance to give my netball knees a rest!”

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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